Interview: Youngsta

It’s hard not to be an ardent devotee of Daniel Lockhart, better known under his long-standing moniker Youngsta, and his infallible output and unmatched talent as a DJ in all senses of the profession. The copiously anticipated prophecy of a Rinse mix CD saw its fulfillment earlier this year in May and simulated a self-proclaimed “deep, dark, minimal, sub-bass journey”, a pleasant and much-needed change-up back in the series to familiar grounds that many have yearned for. Over time the London-native has been expanding his claim for territory as a producer with past joint efforts linked to the likes of the closely-knit Kryptic Minds and SP:MC and an enthralling number of collaborations as well as a solo project to look forward to in the new year. This Friday, Amsterdam based party Sonic Warfare will be celebrating five years of its much-availed existence at the Melkweg in Amsterdam with Youngsta and many more performing. We caught up with him over these burgeoning forthcoming collaborations and an array of other topics to feast on.

Hello Dan, how have you been? What have you been up to lately? “I’m doing very well! I’ve been producing a lot more these days and most recently I have been working with Ben Verse and LX One. I’m really tight with them and we’re all in the same circle so it’s great that I got to work with them in the studio. We’ve got one finished untitled track at the moment that I’ve been playing out and it’s doing really well in the clubs and on the radio. We have another work in progress going on as well. There’s no release date set for all of this yet but it’s going to be one of the tracks that’s featured on Ben Verse’s forthcoming album which is due somewhere next year. The album obviously features Ben Verse and collaborations with us as well as Crushington, so that’s a very exciting new project that I’m very glad to be a part of! It’s undoubtedly been a very successful collaboration so far.”

You and your sister Sarah have both been prominent figures in the evolution of dubstep over the years. Can you tell us a little bit about the musical background you both grew up with? “Musically speaking, I think my sister herself is more of an influence to me because she’s the one that introduced me to dance music by exposing me to jungle and garage. But that only occurred when I was around eleven years old. When I was even younger, I was really into the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder, that was the type of music that I latched on to as a result of what I was exposed to by my mum.” Were your parents as serious about music as you and your sister are in terms of pursuing it professionally? “No, not professionally but my mum is also very passionate about music as she’s always surrounded me with music that she was listening to at the time. Whether it was Madonna, Prince or whatever, I was always exposed to music from the start. I also remember that I constantly used to play Blues Brothers because of the absolutely timeless soundtrack and its features like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. I was just very drawn to those type of soulful artists as I’ve always been into music that had a lot of depth to it rather than just quick cheesy artificial pop music.”

The specialisation of your sets is very much a conscious decision as it’s where your heart lies. What are some of these DJs that cover categorically different styles that you enjoy listening to? “I don’t mind if I’m the minority in what I play. I play what I like, and if it’s in fashion that’s great, but I’m not just going to skip to what’s in fashion if I don’t like it. If I stop getting work because of it then it’s a problem, but I’d still rather do other work than play music that I don’t like. In terms of other DJs, I really enjoy Icicle for his tune selection and technicality. He’s covered both bases completely and that makes him enjoyable to me. I also love Friction as a technical DJ, especially when he plays like a Shogun Audio set rather than a more One Nation type set. J:Kenzo is amazing as well. He’s very exciting. I work for Tempa as an A&R and I scouted J:Kenzo when he sent me some tunes and I really wanted to sign him, so now we’ve put out a 12’’ called “The Roteks” and we just put out another 12’’ called “Ruff House”. It’s really exciting because he’s got his own little sound and he’s a very talented producer as well as a talented DJ that I enjoy listening to. Outside of that I can’t really pick out a lot of DJs that do it for me. It’s hard for me because I’m so fussy with what I like and how technical a DJ has to be in playing. I really do struggle to go out in my own time or listen to a DJ that covers both characteristics in terms of tune selection and technicality. If they don’t excite or entertain me technically and might as well play the tunes start to finish, that makes it difficult for me to get into it.”

As someone who is constantly known to push innovative sounds and at the same time also associated with a very distinct, “deep” sound of its own, subsequently perhaps a logical step would be to see some sort of imprint or label find its roots under your supervision. Have you ever given this any thought? “I have been contemplating starting a label for about a few years now, but with working as an A&R for my sister (Tempa) and Kryptic Minds (Osiris Music), I’ve been busy working for those labels already as it is. In the past it took up quite a lot of my time, but that was years ago. Over the past few years the scene’s grown so much that there’s a lot of music out there and the quality level is good. I mean, it’s always hard to find quality amongst all the bad music but it’s definitely out there. So I suppose I’m considering it. But I’m always working closely and A&Ring for Tempa and I’m always out there looking for music that I want to sign to the label.” What do you think would be your label’s main mission statement then? “The only reason why I would want to start an imprint is to represent myself and to push the sound.”

Surge – Kryptic Minds & Youngsta by Kryptic Minds

Can you shed a little light on your creative process on the whole? “I prefer to work at night, more into the evening and the early hours. Basically I’m always going to bed late and I’m more used to to naturally waking up at three, four o’ clock in the afternoon regularly for years and years now. Some days in the studio are more focused than other days and other times might not be productive if you’ve got stuff on your mind. You have to know I’m very critical so I’m quite slow in most of my work pace. It’s a creative process, so it’s difficult as you don’t see it as much as work. It’s still work-based, but at the end of the day you’re creating something and if you’re not in the mood, then it won’t happen. If it’s making me dance around, smile and get excited, that’s when I know that I’m enjoying the process and then I’m liking what I’m creating. It’s deep when your creativity is your work and your work is your creativity.” How has the way you handle your production process different now as opposed to when you just started? “Like with anything when you first start, you have to learn it gradually so I’ve been getting into the engineering side of music much more as time has passed from when I first started. I suppose when I get in the studio now I know a lot more about how to use the music programs and software.”

Has learning more from a technical standpoint contributed to your process creatively speaking? “Oh yeah, it’s definitely helped me.  I’d say I’m not held back as much to pursue certain ideas or things. The creativity part is naturally there, I’ve found that easy from the start. As I learn more, I start finding the technical aspects easier too and subsequently I’m more confident in starting a track by myself. That being said, it’s still nice to get someone’s opinion on it for any possible improvements.” Do you prefer working on collaborations rather than solo projects then? “Well I like both! I’ve never had a solo project been released yet, but I’m finishing one at the moment and I’ll start playing that out next year. It’s going to be released on Tempa early 2012. I like collaborating as well as working by myself, I just think that I’m a lot slower when working alone.”

Are there any collaborations you are working towards? “I said that at the start of the year that I wanted to do something with Ben Verse and LX One and I’ve done that now. I’m glad I worked with them, they are great producers. I’m going to do a track with dBridge soon too, I’ve really wanted to work with him as he’s a brilliant engineer and producer. We haven’t set a date yet but that’s something to really look forward to. I’m also working together with Icicle, Jubei, Headhunter as well as DJ Madd next year, that’s going to be wicked. But there’s only a select group of people I want to work with and that’s who I end up collaborating with in practice.”

Any dream collaborations you’d like to see happen? “I would love to do a dubstep/140 tune with Noisia, that’s my all-time wish. They’re so amazing technically, their engineering is truly unbelievable and flawless each and every time. I’d like to work with Ed Rush & Optical as well, it would be nice to do a tune with them just because I’ve always been a big fan of their sound.”

These days being both a DJ and a producer seem to almost go hand-in-hand as a packaged deal, sometimes for the wrong reasons. In relation to that, Jackmaster once expressed that he’ll “make music when I feel that I need to do it as a means of expressing myself.” What triggered you to start producing in the first place? “When I started DJing, making music was something I had always wanted to do and was very interested in but at that time I focused much more on my DJing and building up my technique. I started producing in 2004 when I remixed a Loefah track called “Twisup”. It was a natural progression for me and another way to express myself using music. In the last few years I’ve really concentrated and focused on producing and engineering and I’ve learned so much from working in the studio with Icicle, Kryptic Minds, SP:MC, LX One and Ben Verse. Making music is something I want to do as much as possible right now, I’m seriously addicted to it!”

Youngsta & Seven – Masai Mara by wheelanddealrecords

I suppose it’s a problem when DJs get into producing just for the sake of it and are horrible at what they do. “Yeah, and the other way around as well isn’t it? It’s hard to come through just as a DJ, which is something like I definitely did. I don’t disrespect anyone that goes into production prematurely or vice versa. If they’re happy to go from making tunes to getting DJ work even though they know they can’t mix, that’s up to them. In a lot of ways, it doesn’t revolve around mixing anymore. It matters to some people and I’m one of them, but to a lot of people it’s about just going out and listening to the tunes that they like hearing. So even if you’re a producer that’s not good at mixing and you start getting offers to work as a DJ, then it’d be crazy not to take the work anyway. All you’ve got to do is take a laptop there and you’ve got your tracks on Ableton Live there. Fuck it, go and promote your sound and good luck to you. For me it’s the other way round, I’m now getting into production.”

Since you do attach a lot of value to the emotions within music, what are you trying to express with your productions? “Some people create a painting or a piece of music to prove a point or to express themselves and how they’re feeling. I’m trying to express me: this is what I like, this is what makes me smile and this is my sound. Producing music makes me happy and I just love doing it, that’s the main reason why I do it. But it’s strange as it’s all subjective, everyone interprets music in different ways and feels sounds and frequencies in other manners and I’m just doing what feels right.”

Is there a reason why you’re so loyal to vinyl/acetate besides the quality of sound it brings? Does format contribute to creativity and longevity of music at all? ” When I first started DJing I was using vinyl and acetate only and now I use CDs as well as vinyl and acetate. I don’t think that the format contributes to the creativity and longevity of music. Each format has its own sound which some people will like or dislike. The most important thing is the music and the quality of the music, not what format the music is played from. I really do love the sound of vinyl and acetate but I also love the sound of CDs, if what you’re playing has been made properly it’s going to sound good anyway.”

Who do you consider an inspiring figure to you outside of music? What would you be doing were it not for DJing? “Tough question, I don’t have an answer to that really because all my role models have a link to music. It’s been such a big part of my life, I’ve occupied it so much so I don’t know what I’d be doing if it wasn’t for music. My sister is the only person I was inspired by or looked up to. If I weren’t doing music, I honestly could not imagine what I’d be doing.”

Sindhuja Shyam
Sindhuja Shyam

3 thoughts on “Interview: Youngsta”

  1. Youngsta keeping it real unlike these sell-out heads releasing whack tunes for the charts. Looking forward to a big 2012 from younx & co. should be a decent year. Hope to see you in Liverpool on 3rd March. Much respect.

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